The American Counseling Association has canceled its annual conference scheduled for 2017 in Nashville in protest of a state law Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam put into effect two weeks ago that allows counselors to cite principles to reject patients.
“Of all the state legislation impacting counseling during my 30 years with ACA, the new Tennessee law based on Senate Bill 1556/House Bill 1840 is the worst,” CEO Richard Yep said in a video Tuesday. “Tennessee became the latest state to introduce a discriminatory religious freedom law, which targets gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans — and then went further by expanding the allowed discriminatory practice to even more American citizens.”
The legislation’s text states that, “No counselor or therapist providing counseling or therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist.”
The ACA estimates that the financial blow to Nashville as a result of missing out on 3,000 visitors next year would be $4 million in combined local and state tax revenue and a local economic impact of up to $10 million. The ACA, which has more than 55,000 members, is taking bids on alternate locations for the 2017 conference.
Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation president Butch Spyridon told the Tennessean he was not surprised by the ACA’s decision.
“This cancellation is the second one and is likely just the tip of the iceberg when you consider all the other groups that won’t consider us now,” he said. “It is regrettable that all the hard work and investment to make Nashville a top destination has been unnecessarily undone by politics.”
A CVC spokesman declined to name the other group that has decided to bypass Nashville because she said the CVC had not talked to the group directly.